Read our FILMMAKER'S Q&A with JACQUIE PHILLIPS:
Why do you make movies?
Storytelling is a compulsion. I’ve tried living other lives, tried other careers but nothing compares to the process of making a film. Ever since I could string a few verbal sentences together, I was a storyteller. And as a kid I would constantly get in trouble for telling “tall tales,” that’s the polite Midwestern way of saying that I had an overactive imagination coupled with a serious need to be the center of attention. I’ve always been able to spin a convincing yarn.
Making movies is paradoxical, all at once it’s something that is under your control yet uncontrollable because filmmaking is completely collaborative. The Director is at the apex of collaboration. I’m a Type-A, people-pleasing perfectionist with a stubborn streak, there’s nothing more thrilling to me than the absurdity of filmmaking. There’s a gravity to it -- it’s time, money, personalities, emotions and then it’s all reduced to the hope that this moving picture will both be seen and felt. There’s something about that responsibility that is ultimately appealing to me.
Real talk? The short answer? I make movies because I haven’t yet figured out how to break into television and couldn’t make a living doing theatre.
What story do you want to tell?
I like stories that are relatable but expose something deeper, that get inside our own desires. I look for characters that are flawed but brave. I want to be entertained, I want to tell a story that is specific to a person, place, and time but feels universal on some level.
I gravitate towards comedy, because this thing called life is funny. The pursuit of finding purpose and meaning in this world is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
What do you want to achieve in your craft?
It feels really bold to call what I do a craft. I still have a lot to learn, to discover about the art of filmmaking. Selfishly, I’m actively trying to build meaning in a world where it’s really hard to do so. The craft of storytelling is my way to do that, to find connections in this world and share them.
What message were you trying to relay with Wild Man?
Wild Man is a story about accepting yourself, even when what you see in the mirror isn’t the picture perfect reflection of what you envisioned for your life. It’s about redemption. It’s easy to fall hard and fail spectacularly, I’m interested in the different ways we try to recover. For me, Wild Man’s message is that good people do dumb things, but if you’re willing to take the first step, to grow and learn from those mistakes, there’s always a way back.
What was your vision for Wild Man when you were making it?
My vision as the Producer of WILD MAN was to make a feature length film, from development to distribution, with the least amount of Hollywood BS as possible. I was a bulldog about the process, about every decision. We are so lucky to have the team that we’ve had on this film, from our early investors to North of Two.
As a director, I really wanted to pay homage to the films that I loved, the feel-good movies that my on-the-cusp, “Xenial Generation” grew up on. These movies where kids had or found their voice, where adults were imperfect but trying, where it wasn’t about one specific genre but about telling a naturalistic story about a specific, heightened moment in life.
We shot on an Arri Alexa but worked really hard to give it an old-school film grain look, we found visual inspiration in nostalgic movies like Goonies, Stand By Me, and Indian Summer as well as modern indies like Skeleton Twins and Juno.
An important part of the vision was to pay tribute to specific tropes that epitomized 80’s and early 90’s films, the training montage, the surreal reveal of the love interest, the douchey foil to the anti-hero... these were all part of my vision for WILD MAN.
The story of WILD MAN is all Ted Welch. It’s not autobiographical, nothing in the movie literally happened in his life but it all jives with personal truths. Having known the screenwriters [Ted Welch and Stefanie Black] for almost two decades, I knew this was a story that the three of us could bring to life. Ted’s characters, Stef’s story structure, my vision for a film that felt and looked like the feel-good, funny films we all loved from the 80’s & 90’s was a good formula for our debut as feature filmmakers.
What would you tell a young woman with aspirations to be a filmmaker?
Don’t wait for permission, just make it happen. You don’t know what you don’t know until you’re in the trenches doing it. That’s how you learn and you don’t need anyone else’s green light. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. Own your voice, let it be heard.
What has been your biggest struggle as a filmmaker?
I think confidence has been my biggest struggle, feeling like my voice, my storytelling lens is enough in an industry dominated by bravado and superheroes. A lot of women, myself included, think that they need to be fully qualified, to be experts before trying something. I didn’t study film unless you count watching anything and everything! Growing up in theatre, living my life and then working as William H. Macy’s assistant for several years, that was my film school.
What do you see as the biggest struggle going forward?
Right now, I’m just looking for the next story that touches me, that gives me the same feeling I had when I read that first rough draft of WILD MAN. I’m probably being overly-cautious and that’s a personal challenge to overcome. Access to filmmaking feels like a constant struggle but I need to heed my own advice and just do it... again.